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Are your afternoons a drag? Is lunch the culprit?

Posted by: Julie Meek
Tags: nutrition ,

It's mid afternoon, you’re at work and the idea of having a lie down, on or under the desk has become extremely appealing. Your body is sending out no energy signals and you are wondering if your brain may have gone home already. Does this state of affairs sound familiar? If so, you are not alone because research in Australia has shown that when the lights are on but no one is home, otherwise known as ‘presenteeism’, your productivity and that of your work colleagues can be significantly reduced.

Cast your mind back a few hours to lunchtime and the solution to your ongoing afternoon fatigue could be right there. Ask yourself three questions:

Did I eat lunch?
In the workplace many of us are faced with competing priorities and it is easy to put lunch at the bottom of the list. Yet, without lunch, our body is forced to look for alternative stored sources of energy which can make us feel tired and weary. Did you know that our brains only use glucose (our blood sugar level) as a source of fuel? Make sure you eat lunch so your brain and body can function for the rest of the day.

Did I leave my desk?
Physically getting up from your desk to eat lunch is integral to taking a proper fuel and renewal break and provides an opportunity to get your blood flowing through your brain and body. Our perception or ‘memory’ of what we eat determines how full we feel afterwards, regardless of how much we have consumed and eating in front of a computer (or any device) affects this perception. You don’t have to leave the building but just stepping out of your office or cubicle and walking to the lunchroom is enough to make that mental and physical shift.

Did I make a healthy choice for lunch?
On a workday, what you eat for lunch will depend on whether you have brown bagged it or if you are relying on a nearby lunch bar or café. You might be lucky with a range of food outlets to choose from or limited to a single fried food outlet. Whatever your circumstance, best to make a healthy choice and remember, making your own lunch could save you around $10 each day or almost $2500 over a year!

Top Lunch Picks

1. The Humble Sandwich – liven up your sandwich by using a mixture of bread such as sliced, rolls or wraps and choose wholegrain, wholemeal or chia seed enriched for a boost of fibre. No need to spread with butter or margarine. Tasty healthy fillings include: lean ham, sliced tomato and reduced-fat cheese, smoked salmon and low fat cream cheese, sliced chicken with salad leaves and a light spread of low fat mayonnaise, grated reduced-fat cheese topped with baby spinach leaves, sliced turkey breast topped with avocado, tuna mixed with low-fat mayonnaise, finely diced red onion and flat-leaf parsley.

If a sandwich doesn’t appeal, try a big colourful salad with leaves, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, crunchy sprouts and sliced red capsicum topped with an egg or a small tin of tuna and a slice of grainy bread.

Try LiveLighters lunch builder for three easy steps to build a healthy salad or sandwich for lunch.

2. Go Asian – Sushi and rice paper rolls are great choices if buying lunch. For the dipping sauce, try limiting how much you use as most are high in salt, sugar and kilojoules or all three. Bento boxes and teriyaki meals can be good choices but be careful to steer clear of the tempura or other deep-fried options.

3. Anything left? – If you loved your dinner the night before there is nothing better than enjoying it again the next day. Just make sure that you have a mixture of food groups such as some protein like meat, chicken, fish, nuts and seed, legumes and beans, wholemeal or wholegrain carbohydrate like bread, rice or pasta, and some vegetables or salad. Cooking an extra portion the night before is an easy and cost-effective way of ensuring your lunch is organised.

4. Something hot – the weather doesn’t have to be cool to enjoy soup or a hot lunch that can be quickly whipped up in the office kitchen. Why not try:

  • Home-made or prepared soups (without added cream or salt) plus a wholegrain roll
  • A small tin of baked beans (or any other tinned legume), or small tin of tuna combined with a single serve pouch of brown rice or noodles (90 seconds in the microwave) and your favourite frozen vegetables.

Food for thought: If food is provided at your workplace, are healthy food options available?

The Healthy Choices Healthy Futures (HCHF) program, run by the Western Australian School Canteen Association (WASCA) provides support to workplaces in the area of nutrition.

For more information about HCHF click here.

Until next time...


About Julie Meek

Accredited practising dietitian, performance specialist, speaker

View all posts by Julie Meek

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